Meet the men who want to take over from Saraki as Senate President

L-R: Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan; Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari; Senate President Bukola Saraki; Senator Danjuma Goje; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara after a meeting (The Senate)
L-R: Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan; Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari; Senate President Bukola Saraki; Senator Danjuma Goje; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara after a meeting (The Senate)

His political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), had assured him that the position of the Number 3 man in the nation’s power hierarchy, was his for the taking.

Because in Nigeria, when your political party assures you of a position, that position eventually ends up yours, Lawan harbored no fears whatsoever. He could well have gone to sleep.

So, Lawan, now 60 years of age, joined other senators elected on the platform of the APC for a meeting with party godfather, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a few kilometres away from the national assembly.

The Saraki plot that worked to perfection

Lawan and his APC colleagues would learn from the venue of their meeting, that Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki of Kwara central, had outsmarted them all by colluding with senators elected on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform and a sprinkling of dissident APC senators, to install himself President of the 8th Senate.

Ranking Sen Ahmed Lawan has been eyeing the number one job in parliament since forever (ThisDay)
Ranking Sen Ahmed Lawan has been eyeing the number one job in parliament since forever (ThisDay)

As the 9th senate prepares to inaugurate new members and elect principal and presiding officers, Lawan once again feels that this is his time to become President of Nigeria’s Senate. He should be forgiven for not leaving anything to chance at the second time of asking, even though he still wears psychological scars from the morning Saraki dealt core APC loyalists devastating body blows.

“Let me say that we are senators who believe in party supremacy. We believe in the leadership of our party. The leadership we are seeking is that of the senate and the national assembly”, Lawan says as he sets out his stall for another senate president run.

On what he’s doing to avoid a repeat of June 9, 2015, Lawan says “APC must have learnt its lessons.

“The leadership of the party will do something differently. I am sure that our leaders will manage the huge success of APC. The party will find us very compliant and supportive.”

Former APC Chairman, John Oyegun meets with Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Senator Ahmed Lawan during one of parliament's leadership crisis in 2015 (Punch)
Former APC Chairman, John Oyegun meets with Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Senator Ahmed Lawan during one of parliament’s leadership crisis in 2015 (Punch)

Lawan, a senator since 2007, has been holding meetings with key stakeholders, placing phone calls to the powers that be in the APC and the presidency, and telling everyone who cares to listen that he is best placed to take over from Saraki, who won’t be returning to the senate after being voted out by his constituency.

Lawan says; “Just like in 2015 when we sought to lead the senate, we have come to the conclusion that we have something to offer by leading the senate and the entire national assembly.

“We are not under any illusions. We know that this requires a lot in terms of momentum and work we have to do to make Nigeria better through legislative interventions, also by working with other arms of the government.

“You have known us for a long time. You know our strengths and weaknesses. We need to project what we want to offer. We need to tell Nigerians what we can do. We need everyone in this journey of four years we will embark on soon”.

 

Pulse understands that Lawan is the candidate of the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari once again, even though the presidency has announced that it would allow parliament elect its leaders without any interference from the executive.

More men join the battle

Another ranking senator who is eyeing the senate president position is Ali Ndume (Borno South).

Senator Ali Ndume fancies himself as Senate President ( Guardian) Senator Ali Ndume fancies himself as Senate President ( Guardian)

In 2015, Ndume says, he deferred to Saraki. In 2019, Ndume thinks he’s done enough to be handed the job. “I wanted to be the president of the senate at one time, but we cannot have two presidents in the senate at the same time and that is why you see that as soon as we have a senate president, I stood by him 100 per cent,” Ndume, whose loyalty and ties to Saraki could prove his Achilles heel in the race, says

Ndume’s constituency is backing him for the plum job, however. “We the Concerned Citizens of Borno are coming forward to urge Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume to contest for the office of the President of the Senate in the 9th National Assembly”, declared Dauda Danladi, leader of the group and Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Pakistan, during a recent press briefing.

Danjuma Goje - Former Governor of Gombe state, loves the top job too (Guardian)
Danjuma Goje – Former Governor of Gombe state, loves the top job too (Guardian)

Senator Danjuma Goje, Governor of Gombe State from 2003 to 2011, has also been paying courtesy visits to power brokers as he seeks support for his senate president bid.

Goje, who represents Gombe central senatorial district in the senate, defected to the APC from the PDP in 2014.

Goje currently chairs the Senate Committee on Appropriation and he considers himself ripe for the senate president job.

Goje has been wooing senators his own way, making cold calls and telling everyone who cares to listen that he’s paid his dues in Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber.

Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia state, wants to become senate president too (Sun Newspaper)
Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia state, wants to become senate president too (Sun Newspaper)

Former Governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu is also likely to hurl his hat in the ring when the race for the senate presidency garners momentum.

In Kalu’s camp, the thinking is that should the Southeast geopolitical zone be settled on for the job, the role would be Kalu’s to assume on a platter.

Kalu also boasts enough deep pockets to sway senators his way, even though this would be his first time as a senator.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, told Sun Newspaper in a recent interview that Kalu is ripe enough to lead the senate.

“We have APC legislators now that are ranking from the Southeast unlike the former time. We have those that are ranking now. We have Ben Uwajumogu; he is now a two-term senator. He is coming back from the ruling party.

“We have Dr Orji Uzor Kalu who was a Federal Assembly legislator during the military regime; it’s counted because it was a national assembly. So, he has got some ranking, his ranking from the House of Reps is counting for him. Therefore, Orji Uzor Kalu is also qualified,” Ngige said.

Ahmed Gulak, who served as Special Adviser, Political Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, also told Sun Newspaper that it is the turn of the South to produce the next senate president, “We need as of today, if my opinion matters; I want the senate presidency to go to the south. The president is from the north; the vice president is from the south. I want the senate president to go to the south, preferably to the South-south, or Southeast.”

The people who matter

Senators attend Lawan's press conference (Twitter: @cbngov_akin1) Senators attend Lawan’s press conference (Twitter: @cbngov_akin1)

On the afternoon of Monday, March 25, 2019, Sen. Ahmed Lawan summons yet another press conference with Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Senator Olamilekan Adeola (Yayi), Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Senator Ifeanyi Uba, Senator Dayo Adeyeye and others in attendance.

The presence of Mrs. Tinubu in this latest of press briefings, sends tongues wagging about Lawan’s candidacy enjoying Bourdillon’s blessings–as was the case in 2015.

Most of the senators at this press conference were with Lawan when Saraki sneaked into the Red Chamber back in 2015 and pulled off a carefully orchestrated ‘heist’. As they sit here to listen to Lawan, steely resolves etched on their battle weary faces, you could tell that they would be very close to the senate chamber this time, on the morning the 9th senate takes a collective decision on its presiding and principal officers.

Adams Oshiomhole wants a senate that is in tune with the policies of the executive (ThisDay) Adams Oshiomhole wants a senate that is in tune with the policies of the executive (ThisDay)

APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, says the party is really interested in who leads the 9th senate, after Saraki’s parliament got in the way of the party’s policies. “We will ensure that we have a leadership of the national assembly that shares the vision of the executive. Although we stick to separation of powers and unless the various arms pursue the same agenda, it is difficult for the executive to fulfill its promises and legislative backing is often required for most of the executive actions”, Oshiomhole says.

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